Most women recover quickly after an abortion. How much pain and bleeding you experience afterwards can vary - see the helpful information below.
What to expect after treatment
Use sanitary towels to monitor your bleeding during early medical/abortion pill treatment, and after any abortion treatment.
Bleeding during and after a medical abortion (abortion pill) up to 10 weeks' gestation
You may bleed heavily - possibly more than a period, and see large blood clots (as big as a lemon), or other tissue when you pass the pregnancy. The tissue is larger and more recognisable at higher gestations. Once the pregnancy passes, the amount of bleeding should noticeably reduce. After the pregnancy passes, most women will have light bleeding for about two weeks, but you may have spotting up to your next period. Sometimes you may have a short episode of pain with a gush of blood or a clot several weeks after the abortion - contact us if this continues. Click here for more information on bleeding after the abortion pill under 10 weeks
Bleeding after surgical abortion
Expect to bleed like a normal menstrual period, and you may pass small blood clots. Bleeding usually stops after 1-2 weeks, but some women spot until their next period. Sometimes you may have a short episode of pain, with a gush of blood or a clot several weeks after the abortion - contact us if this continues. A few women don't bleed until their next period is due - and that is normal too.
How much bleeding is too much?
Call 999 for an ambulance if you soak 2 or more maxi-size sanitary towels per hour, for 2 hours in a row (see example 3 flooding below).
Pain during and after Early Medical Abortion (abortion pill up to 10 weeks)
Misoprostol (the second medication), causes strong cramps which can be very painful, and heavy bleeding, which can start 2 hours after using the tablets. This lasts a few hours, and is most painful when the pregnancy is being expelled. Many women pass the pregnancy between 2 and 4 hours later - timings vary, but it is OK if this happens sooner or later. You will be given codeine to help you manage the pain, and you can also use pain relief from supermarkets and pharmacies too. Please refer to the 'Pain control' section on the 'Abortion pill under 10 weeks' page, for information about managing your pain
Once the pregnancy passes, the pain should reduce noticeably. It is likely you will feel cramping on and off for a week or so after - this should be easily managed with ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Pain after surgical abortion
Most women experience cramping on and off, for about a week after a surgical abortion. You can take ibuprofen and paracetamol if needed. You can buy these over-the-counter pain medicines from a pharmacy, supermarket and other shops without a prescription. There are two strengths of ibuprofen tablets and you should carefully follow the directions that apply for the strength that you take. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used together if the recommended dose of either medicine alone does not control your pain.
After an abortion most women feel relieved, but some also feel sad or guilty. Occasionally, although physically all is well, perhaps emotionally it's a bit of a struggle.
Not sleeping well ... would like to talk but you're afraid that people are fed up with you ... feeling very sad ... going over and over things ... worrying that your partner doesn't understand - this is normal and talking through these feelings with an experienced listener can help.
If you need to talk you can make an appointment for post-abortion counselling. This is a free service for women who have had treatment at BPAS. Call us on 03457 30 40 30 (or +44 1789 508 211) to arrange post abortion counselling.
Symptoms of nausea, vomiting and tiredness usually stop within 3 days of an abortion. Sore breasts may take 7 to 10 days to disappear. Your breasts may feel firm and tender and leak milk after your procedure. You will feel more comfortable if you wear a supportive bra and apply cold ice packs to your breasts. Take ibuprofen or paracetamol, if necessary for the pain.
Your next period
Your next menstrual period will begin 4-6 weeks after your treatment. If you have not had a period 4 weeks after your treatment, you should do a pregnancy test. If it is positive, ring the clinic where you were treated to make a follow up appointment. It's important to remember that any bleeding immediately after your treatment is not a period.
What can I do?
Take a bath or shower as normal. Take care if you have a bath in the 24 hours following a general anaesthetic. You will need to make sure someone is around to keep an eye on you, in case you still feel drowsy.
Other activities, including work
Most women will be fit and well enough to return to normal activities within a day or two. Our best advice is to rest until you feel able to return to your normal routine.
Once you feel sufficiently recovered from the abortion you can return to having sex. You can get pregnant almost immediately following an abortion, so it’s important to use contraception if you do not want to get pregnant.
It is best not to travel within 24 hours of treatment. If you must travel just make sure you know how to access emergency services at your destination in case of a complication. Please be aware that, if you are having the abortion pill up to 10 weeks and choose to travel soon after taking the second medication (misoprostol), you may start to have cramps and bleed heavily whilst you are travelling.
Air travel following surgical abortion with sedation and general anaesthetic
Please inform us if you need to fly following your surgery. Flights of 4 hours or more should be avoided for up to 48 hours after receiving a sedative or anaesthetic.
We advise that:
- If you need to fly after general anaesthesia/conscious sedation you should only do so, if you flight begins more than 12 hours after receiving your sedative or anaesthetic.
- You must be accompanied by a responsible adult who can seek medical help should you become unwell
- You should only catch your flight if you feel well and are not experiencing any of these symptoms: dizzy, lightheaded, nausea or vomiting, heavy bleeding, severe abdominal pain
Unexpected or unusual symptoms after an abortion
Telephone 999 for an ambulance if you have experienced any of the following in the last 24 hours after your treatment:
- loss of consciousness
- severe allergic reaction
- a confused state
- concern for a heart attack or stroke
- chest pain
- slurred speech
- breathing difficulties
- fits that aren't stopping
- continuous and heavy bleeding that soaks 2 or more pads in an hour for 2 hours in a row.
Phone the clinic where you were treated (the number is on your copy of 'My BPAS guide and your discharge letter), or the Aftercare Line on 0300 333 68 28 (or +44 1789 508 210) if you have any of the following:
- Lasting pain
- Discoloured or smelly vaginal discharge
- Abdominal tenderness
- A general feeling of being unwell or still feeling pregnant
If you've had a positive pregnancy test 2 weeks after your abortion pill treatment under 10 weeks' - please call the clinic where you had your treatment to make a follow up appointment.
BPAS after-care service cannot support patients who were not treated in our clinics. If you were treated by MSI or NUPAS, you should contact them direct for aftercare. If you are an Irish client who has purchased pills online from 'Women help women' or 'Women on the web' BPAS runs a free confidential helpline on 1800 910 049 (ROI) and 0800 0776049 (NI).